Planet on lockdown
Anton Petrus (Getty)
  • Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu said South Africa's government will buy all the available water tanks in the country to supply communities without running water. 
  • Sisulu said her department has already deployed 41 000 tanks, mostly in the Eastern Cape. 
  • A 21-day national lockdown started in South Africa on Friday which forced most people to stay at their homes.
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    * This is a developing story, constantly updated throughout.

    Last updated: 15:29, 28 March 2020. 

    The department of water and sanitation has bought all the water tanks available in South Africa, roughly 400 000 tanks, in a bid to supply communities with water during the lockdown, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Saturday. 

    South Africa embarked on an unprecedented 21-day national lockdown on Friday in a bid to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2.

    Sisulu said the department has already deployed 41 000 water tanks, mostly in the Eastern Cape, for communities with no running water. 

    South Africa has 1 170 known cases of infection of coronavirus, the health department said on Friday night – with only one recorded death.

    For more information direct from the source, see also:

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    Here's what we know so far about the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 in South Africa and beyond.

    Number of confirmed cases in South Africa: 1 170

    Water department buys all available water tanks in SA 

    Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu said her department has bought all the available water tanks, roughly 400 000 in total, in South Africa.

    Those tanks will be distributed across the country in areas without running water. Most of the water tanks already distributed are in the Eastern Cape, Sisulu said. 

    She said charity organisation Gift of the Givers has offered to drill boreholes in areas where tanks will be placed.

    Anglo-American Group has also pledged water as well as land for temporary settlement for high density informal areas, Sisulu said. 

    South Africa now has 55 people in hospital, three of those patients on ventilators – with 31 recovered

    As of Friday night there were 55 people with Covid-19 in South African hospitals, health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

    Of those, four were in intensive care, with all but one on ventilators.

    SA had also recorded 31 people who were classed as recovered from the novel coronavirus.

    With 28 537 test conducted, the number of known cases stood at 1 170. 

    South Africa went from two reported Covid-19 deaths to one, but doctors did the right thing, Mkhize said

    On Friday health authorities reported that two people had died from Covid-19, but by later Friday night one of those cases had been confirmed unrelated to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

    But health minister Zweli Mkhize went out of his way to reassure health workers that they had acted correctly in assuming – incorrectly, as it turned out – that they were dealing with the novel coronavirus.

    "As a clinician myself, I want reassure them that making such a diagnosis on presentation is line with our plea to them to keep a high index of suspicion so as not to miss a diagnosis of Covid-19," said Mkhize in a statement.

    "This is common practice, medical doctors often make a diagnosis based on a clinical presentation and physical examination of a patient. They then conduct further tests to confirm or disprove the diagnosis. In this instance, doctors and all health workers involved exercised clinical judgment and took extra precaution in managing this patient. We support this approach."

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus. He announced the news on Twitter on Friday morning.

    Police made several arrests as SA’s lockdown took effect on Friday

    Several people were arrested for allegedly disregarding South Africa's lockdown rules that officially kicked in at midnight on Thursday. 

    SABC News reported that the South African Police Service (SAPS) raided taverns and clubs where people were gathering and drinking in the early hours of Friday morning. 

    The US now has world’s biggest outbreak of coronavirus

    Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the US have topped the totals in China and Italy, making the US the center of the global outbreak.

    In the US, confirmed cases hit 82,404 on Thursday evening, surpassing China's 81,782 and Italy's 80,589. The total number of confirmed cases globally is 526,044, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

    Since the US reported its first coronavirus case on January 20, more than 1,100 people in the country have died from the disease. The death tolls in Italy and China are higher.

    Spar, Makro, Pick 'n Pay named in coronavirus price gouging crackdown

    Authorities are investigating 30 cases of so-called price gouging on price-controlled essentials such as hand sanitisers, masks and toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak, acting commissioner of the National Consumer Commission Thezi Mabuza told journalists on Wednesday. 

    Eleven certificates have been issued to supermarkets including a Spar branch in Silverlakes, Gauteng, for raising the price of Dettol antiseptic; a Spar in Plattekloof, Cape Town for hand sanitiser; North Safety in Cape Town for hand sanitiser; Checkers Hyper in Kempton Park and Makro in Durban for toilet paper; National Overalls in Gauteng for face masks; Bloemfontein Pharmacy in the Free State for gloves; Mopane Pharmacy in Mpumalanga and Seaside Pharmacy in Table View in the Western Cape for face masks; and Pick 'n Pay in Milnerton, Western Cape for hand sanitiser.  

    Eight additional certificates were issued on Wednesday, but had not yet been confirmed by the receivers. These were four in Gauteng, on in KwaZulu-Natal, two in the North West Province and one in Limpopo.

    See also: Spar, Makro, Pick 'n Pay named in coronavirus price gouging crackdown

    Taxis are now (theoretically) allowed on the road only during specific hours 

    Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has confirmed that minibus taxis (as well as Uber and Bolt) can only be on the roads between 05:00 to 09:00, and from 16:00 to 20:00 during the lockdown.

    Only people who are essential services workers, as well as South Africans buying food, seeking medical attention, funeral service and to receive payment of grants will be permitted to travel.

    There will be no mass movement of buses, Mbalula said. Only buses carrying workers, and those to hospitals will run.

    Border posts have closed for people, and Home Affairs services have been reduced

    SA's eighteen remaining border posts that remain open will continue to stay open for trade, but not for human traffic. 

    Home Affairs will issue with temporary IDs for those who have lost theirs. No applications for new IDs will be processed. Temporary birth certificates will also be issued. But no other documents.

    Death certificates will be issued as normal. No passports will be issued because there is no movement of people. No marriage certificates will be issued.

    SA courts must stay open, says Chief Justice

    South Africa's courts must stay open during the Covid-19 lockdown, if only so citizens can challenge the lockdown rules, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has said.

    Physical entry to courts was already limited after the call for social distancing, but before the announcement that South Africa would go into lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    Cases that should go ahead include:

    • any urgent matter bail applications
    • maintenance and domestic violence matters, and
    • cases involving "children issues". 

    Read also: SA courts must stay open – for challenges to lockdown rules, says Chief Justice

    Eskom maintenance not affected by Covid-19 so far – expects to be impacted by lockdown

    South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom, says their maintenance plans will go ahead during lockdown. Repair work so far has not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

    As an essential service it will be business as usual for the power utility as it continues to work on fixing its ageing fleet of coal stations, throughout the lockdown. However it does expect to be affected.  

    The utility said that with the global impact of Covid-19, the maintenance programme will be affected by some support suppliers who are based overseas.

    Read also: Eskom maintenance not affected by Covid-19 so far – expects to be impacted by lockdown

    You are legally required to inform authorities if you know about someone who may have the novel coronavirus.

    Regulations last updated in 2017, years before the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 was detected, means South Africans are legally obliged to report on their neighbours who may be infected if authorities have not yet been informed.

    The rules for notifiable medical conditions list mostly specific diseases, such as the plague, but make provision for the emergence of new diseases such as Covid-19.

    In terms of the rules, laboratories, doctors, and others in the medical field must report cases of such diseases to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). But other members of the community are required to let healthcare workers know if they so much as suspect someone may have had contact with a carrier.

    Failing in the duty to report could come with up to 10 years in jail.

    Up to 70% of South Africans will get coronavirus, health minister believes.

    Health minister Zweli Mkhize believes between 60% to 70% of South Africans will get the coronavirus, of which only about 20% of those will be serious cases.

    He believes South Africa will have more than 200 coronavirus cases by Friday morning. 

    The country currently has a capacity to test 5 000 people per day, but this is set to increase to 15 000 by next week, and to 30 000 by mid-April. 

    Meanwhile, News24 reported that South Africa only has 3 000 intensive care beds available, which will be wholly inadequate for the up to 500 000 people who might require hospitalisation due to the virus. 

    Here's how the symptoms differ between Covid-19, the flu, a cold, and allergies.

    Flu vs Covid 19 vs a cold or allergies

    If you think you have the virus, phone the National Institute for Communicable Disease on 0800 029 999 for directions on where to be tested.

    You can also use the official Whatsapp platform for information and advice, by sending "hi" to 060 012 3456. 

    DStv is making its 24-hour news channels available online to all South Africans – even if you’re not a subscriber.

    In response to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, DStv Now has added a new way for everyone to get free access to its news channels

    DStv Now is making the following 24-hour news channels available on its platform: BBC World, CNN, eNCA, SABC News, Newzroom Afrika, and Euronews Now. 

    This service will also be available to people who don’t have a DStv subscription in South Africa. 

    DStv Now is the online version of DStv and can me accessed via smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, smart TV or Xbox.  

    Private hospitals will be required to make facilities available to government.

    Health minister Zweli Mkhize said that testing mechanisms have been intensified, and some private hospitals will be required to make their facilities available to government.

    Mkhize has also called for restricted hospital visits, as he reiterated the need to take extra precautions to prevent escalation.

    As of 11 March, SARS-CoV-2 virus is officially considered a pandemic.

    "We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," said World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

    A disease is considered pandemic when it spreads around the world – not just to travellers who visit specific countries, but within communities – in a rapid and unexpected fashion. 

    The declaration is a change in language that seems intended to pressure governments to do more to slow the spread of the disease.

    South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover.

    South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover, and some are actively advertising this as a benefit to those who have international travel plans.

    As a general rule, most travel insurance policies exist to cover unforeseen events, but they exclude coverage for pandemics and epidemics. This means any costs associated with medical expenses, trip cancellation, or disinclination to travel will be at the traveller’s own expense. 

    See also: South Africans can now get insurance against the coronavirus

    You can phone 0800 029 999, day or night, for more information – in theory.

    The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a toll-free number for the public that deals with Covid-19 questions: 0800 029 999.

    With the first case of infection now confirmed, that line will operated 24 hours per day, Mkhize told Parliament.

    But on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the announcement, the NICD was apparently struggling with call volumes, with calls going unanswered or being dropped.

    If you have a mild case of Covid-19, big medical aid schemes will pay for testing – and you are definitely covered for the most common way it goes bad.

    People infected with the virus behind Covid-19, properly known as SARS-CoV-2, can be entirely asymptomatic. Others may have only a mild case, worldwide reports show, much like a cold.

    Depending on the nature of your medical aid, and just how comprehensive it is, you may have to pay for both diagnosis and treatment of such a case out of your own pocket, the Council for Medical Schemes said on Thursday.

    But if things go bad, you are covered.

    Pneumonia is one of the most common complications of Covid-19, the organisation said – and that is a prescribed minimum benefit (PMB) condition in South Africa.

    "All medical schemes are required by law to pay for the diagnosis, treatment and care costs for this condition in full, irrespective of plan type or option," the council said.

    "Medical schemes are not allowed to fund PMB conditions from a member’s Medical Savings Account".

    Some of South Africa's biggest medical aid administrators, Discovery Health, Momentum Health, and Profmed have all indicated their members will be covered for coronavirus testing.

    See also: SA medical schemes are preparing for Coronavirus - and you likely won’t have to pay

    Here are the symptoms to look out for.

    The common signs of infection with the novel coronavirus, the South African department of health says, include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. 

    If you experience those or other flu-like symptoms, and have reason to believe you may have been infected (such as recent contact with someone who has travelled to a high-risk country including Italy), the Council for Medical Schemes recommends seeking immediate help at your nearest clinic, hospital, or general practitioner.

    But South Africa's department of health advises phoning the NICD helpline rather than going straight to a medical facility:

    The World Health Organization has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces.

    The World Health Organization has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces for a Covid-19 outbreak.

    Measures include making sure your workplace is clean and hygienic – including objects like phones and keyboards. This means cleaning surfaces like desks and tables and objects (like telephones and keyboards) with disinfectant, regularly. The coronavirus appears to easily spread on surfaces touched by employees and customers.

    The WHO also recommends work places install hand sanitiser and soap wash stations.

    See also: Here’s how your office should be preparing for coronavirus worst-case according to the WHO

    The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through droplets, so you need to wash your hands properly.

    To reduce your chance of infection, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

    Hand-washing takes less than half a minute, yet an estimated 97% of people do it wrong.

    "It's recommended that you wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice - about 20 seconds," says family physician Dr Sarah Borwein. Twenty seconds has been shown to be the minimum amount of time it takes to really remove germs."   

    If you don't wash long enough, even with soap, it could backfire.

    "Chances are that you are not effectively removing all the disease-causing germs that are lurking on them," Borwein tells Insider.

    See also: You're probably not washing your hands long enough, and it could be making you sick

    The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a short video with much of what you need to know about coronaviruses.

    * This article is constantly updated throughout.

    More on office hygiene - here.

    More on hand hygiene - here.  

    More on Covid-19: